Allen Craig Rumors

Quick Hits: Shields, Yankees, Craig

Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.


Red Sox Notes: Pitching, Diamond, Betts

If the Red Sox are serious about not wanting to over-commit in money or years to starters in free agency, then Alex Speier of the Boston Globe thinks the club might already be out of the running for next year’s available hurlers.  David Price seems likely to command a contract in the Max Scherzer range, while an NL evaluator thinks Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann could find deals similar to Jon Lester‘s contract with the Cubs.  The Sox topped out at $135MM for Lester this winter and they were only wiling to go that high because they were familiar with him and because he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached.  The volume of high-level aces available in free agency next winter might not do much to keep prices down, Speier writes, as Scherzer and Lester showed this year that frontline starters will always command big contracts.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park…

  • Left-hander Scott Diamond will throw a bullpen session for the Red Sox, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).  Diamond posted a 4.43 ERA, 4.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB rate over 343 innings (all as a starter) with the Twins from 2011-13.  He spent last season pitching for Minnesota and Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliates.
  • Mookie Betts‘ name surfaced in many trade rumors this offseason, but the top prospect tells MLB.com’s Ian Browne that he’s happy to still be with the Red Sox.  He tried his best to avoid the rumors, though his friends and family “try and keep up with all that stuff. I guess they want to play GM. They let me know the things that are going on.”  Betts’ loved ones may be letting him know about this next item…
  • …as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron argues that a trade of Betts-for-Stephen Strasburg makes some sense for both the Red Sox and Nationals, though such a deal is “almost certainly not going to happen.”  Betts would give the Nats an elite controllable talent, a big bench upgrade and he’d probably find plenty of everyday work filling in for the injured Jayson Werth or perhaps displacing Yunel Escobar at second.  Tanner Roark could take Strasburg’s spot in the rotation and allow the Nats to explore re-signing Zimmerman.  For Boston’s side, Strasburg gives their rotation a clear ace, and while Betts is a valuable piece for the Sox, his best positions (2B and CF) are both blocked by Dustin Pedroia and Rusney Castillo for the foreseeable future.
  • The Sox are “focused short-term” on Allen Craig, GM Ben Cherington told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, as the team just wants him to get back into a rhythm following an injury-plagued season.  Craig’s versatility will help him earn playing time on a crowded Boston roster, and John Farrell noted that Craig is open to all options, potentially even his first taste of third base since 2008.

Cafardo’s Latest: Cobb, Hamels, Red Sox

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares some news and opinions in his latest reader mailbag piece

  • The Rays aren’t looking to trade Alex Cobb, as they see the right-hander as a building block piece.  Cobb is under team control through the 2017 season and is only arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter; as Cafardo notes, Tampa only tends to move its stars when they get too expensive.
  • Cafardo believes the Red Sox will acquire an ace-level pitcher before Opening Day.  Given all of Boston’s other winter moves, “it makes no sense to do all they’ve done…and not go after the ace” to top everything off, Cafardo writes, especially since the Sox have the prospect depth to make a trade happen and already might be over the luxury tax threshold.
  • One of those potentially available aces is Cole Hamels, who the Red Sox have been connected to in rumors but “there haven’t been substantiative talks lately.”  Cafardo speculates that Boston could be waiting for the Phillies‘ asking price to drop, and the Sox have already turned down one offer that would’ve cost them both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart.
  • Besides getting an ace pitcher, Cafardo also predicts the Red Sox will add another reliever (possibly a hard-throwing lefty) and trade one of Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava or Allen Craig before the season begins.  In Craig’s case, Cafardo believes the Sox won’t deal him until they see if he’s productive in Spring Training, as Craig is a valuable bat if healthy.


Red Sox In Active Trade Talks Regarding Allen Craig

The Red Sox are in active trade talks with at least one club regarding first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Craig is said to be fully recovered from a painful Lisfranc fracture suffered in his left foot in August, Morosi adds.

Craig was acquired from the Cardinals along with right-hander Joe Kelly in the trade that sent John Lackey to St. Louis. The 30-year-old was having a down season at the time of the acquisition and was considered by many to be a buy-low option, but his fortunes worsened in Boston. With the Red Sox, Craig batted a woeful .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances. While the foot likely played a role in those struggles, his overall season line of .215/.279/.315 was a far cry from the excellent production he showed from 2011-13. Over the course of those two seasons, Craig batted a hefty .312/.364/.500 — good for a 136 OPS+.

The Cardinals clearly looked at Craig as yet another late bloomer (he didn’t break out until he was nearly 27) and rewarded him with a five-year, $31MM contract that covered the 2013-18 seasons. The first year of the contract looked good, but Craig’s outlook has tanked after a rough 2014 that can’t be explained solely by injury. His strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent to 22.4 percent this season, and his ground-ball rate soared to 54 percent. That mark ranked ninth-highest among qualified hitters this season and is a troubling trend for a player with little speed of which to speak.

Craig’s contract was heavily backloaded, meaning that an acquiring team will still be on the hook for the majority of the price tag. He’s owed $26.5MM over the next three seasons, including the $1MM buyout on his $13MM club option for the 2018 season. That sum doesn’t look appealing at this time, however if Craig returns to form and 2014 proves to be little more than a fluke, a team that bought low on his services could have a very nice value on its hands.

To this point in the offseason, both the Marlins and Brewers have been connected to Craig, although I’d imagine that Miami’s signing of Michael Morse takes them out of the picture. The Mariners are known to be seeking right-handed bats, and while they did just acquire Justin Ruggiano, he could be used in a reserve role with Craig seeing more regular playing time. Likewise, the Orioles have yet to replace any of the production they lost when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz signed elsewhere. The Padres have been aggressively courting offensive upgrades and could feel that Craig represents a better long-term option than Yonder Alonso. Additionally, the Reds and Giants are known to be in the market for a left fielder.

All of those suggestions are, of course, speculative on my behalf. It should also be noted that Craig comes with some defensive question marks as a corner outfielder, so some teams without an opening at first base may be hesitant to acquire him (especially after his foot injury).


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Rasmus, Craig, Blue Jays

With research revealing the strike zone has dropped by the diameter of a baseball over the last few years, the Red Sox have targeted pitchers and hitters who can control that area of the plate, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is one of the best lowball hitters in the game. Hanley Ramirez, meanwhile, is a lifetime .346 hitter in the lower third of the zone. On the pitching side of the equation, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson are all above average in ground ball/fly ball ratio, with Masterson (1.33) standing as one of the most extreme examples in the game.

Elsewhere out of the American League East:

  • The Orioles are being pushed to take Colby Rasmus on a one-year deal, tweets Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Earlier today, we learned the Cubs have met recently with Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in the free agent center fielder.
  • MLB.com’s Richard Justice profiles Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig as an overlooked trade candidate, noting the 30-year-old, who has been hobbled by foot injuries the last two years, is a driven and serious man obsessed with putting his career back on track. The Marlins and Brewers have been linked to Craig so far this offseason.
  • With Melky Cabrera coming to terms with the White Sox, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory pick after the first round, lessening the blow of forfeiting the 18th overall selection for signing Russell Martin, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.

Cafardo On Hamels, Astros, Howard, Craig

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that teams second guessing themselves is just a regular part of the offseason.  A lot of folks are second guessing the A’s, but manager Bob Melvin has confidence in GM Billy Beane.

We’re looking to get a little bit younger, yet if you want to look back to the end of 2011 and leading into 2012, we traded our last three All-Stars in [Trevor] Cahill[Andrew] Bailey, and [Gio] Gonzalez and we ended up winning the division,” said Melvin. “We’re looking to compete again. This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players that we’re getting back we like. There’s always a balance here for us in that we have to look down the road. We lost quite a bit of talent the last couple of years, making some trades. Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance and keep us competitive currently, yet also having to look down the road for the future.”

More from today’s column..

  • The Astros are a sleeper team in the Cole Hamels chase, Cafardo writes.  The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are also interested in the Phillies left-hander, but Houston could join the bunch and the Giants may also be in if they can’t land James Shields.
  • The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Ryan Howard, and a team source indicated to Cafardo that they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him.  Howard is owed $60MM between 2015 and 2017, including a buyout.  The Rays and Orioles have DH needs and he could theoretically fit the bill.
  • Both the Marlins and the Brewers have active interest in Red Sox first baseman Allen Craig.  Craig, 30, had some strong years with the Cardinals before joining the Red Sox at last year’s deadline.
  • Agent John Boggs says that he’s having “discussions with several cubs” about client Ichiro Suzuki, though no deal is imminent at this time.
  • Dan Uggla’s agent, Terry Bross, was trying to market his client for a comeback at the Winter Meetings.  Cafardo hears that a lot of the 34-year-old’s decline may have had to do with an undetected concussion.

East Notes: Myers, Desmond, Young, Morse, Orioles

The Rays have received some trade inquiries about Wil Myers, but do not seem apt to deal him, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “The guy we saw last year was injured and didn’t really have a chance to demonstrate what he has,” says Rays executive Matt Silverman. “We look at him as a rookie of the year who really missed most of the season and expect him to be back in that form as a formidable bat in the middle of the lineup who also plays a pretty good outfield.” The Rays are widely expected to deal an outfielder this offseason, but that will likely be David DeJesus or Matt Joyce; as Topkin notes, trading the 2013 ROY-winning Myers after a down season would be selling low. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not want to be traded, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson writes. “Do I want to be a National [beyond 2015]? Yes,” says Desmond. “Do I think, at this particular moment, I will be, I don’t know.” Desmond and the Nationals have been unable to settle on a long-term extension, and he’s now one of several key Nats who’s eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
  • The Orioles still have interest in Delmon Young as a right-handed power source but could pursue Michael Morse (to whom they’ve previously been connected) as a backup plan, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets. Another possible option for them could be to acquire Allen Craig in a trade with the Red Sox. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo adds (via Twitter), however, that the Orioles are not close to signing Young. Young and Morse are both poor defensive players, but they’re coming off strong offensive seasons — Young hit .302/.337/.442 in a part-time role with Baltimore in 2014, while Morse batted .279/.336/.475 in 482 at bats with the Giants. (Before that, the Orioles acquired Morse for their stretch run in 2013, and he collected 30 plate appearances for them.) With Nelson Cruz gone, the Orioles could have either player pick up at bats at DH, while occasionally playing an outfield corner. Morse would likely be the more expensive of the two, with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd predicting Morse will get a two-year, $22MM deal.

Quick Hits: Leake, Craig, Liriano, Masterson

Reds pitcher and regular MLBTR reader Mike Leake keeps track of offseason trade whispers but tries not to worry about them, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes.  “I’m curious. I check MLB Trade Rumors every day just to see what’s new,” says Leake, a potential trade candidate this winter. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait and see if your name is thrown in a trade.” Leake notes that he would be happy to remain with the Reds, but would be understanding if they traded him.

  • If the Red Sox decide to deal Allen Craig, there will be interest despite his poor 2014 season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  The Marlins and Brewers have had interest in the past, and one evaluator expresses confidence that Craig’s performance last season was derailed by injuries and not by a steep decline in ability.
  • Also from Cafardo, Francisco Liriano would be a good fit in either the NL or AL, but teams are concerned about giving him more than a three-year deal since he’s never been an innings-eater.  The Pirates remain interested in retaining him but not on a four-year contract.  Some executives feel the “tipping point” of Liriano’s market will be if at least one team is willing to give that fourth year, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
  • Liriano is one of the Pirates‘ top targets, sources tell Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • Justin Masterson has received a lot of interest but no actual offers yet, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports.  Laurila suggested in a recent column that Masterson could be a good candidate to be converted to relief pitching, though no teams have approached him with that idea and Masterson wouldn’t be interested if they did.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he talks to Burke Badenhop and the righty reliever said he felt he improved his free agent stock by posting strong numbers against left-handed batters in 2014.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s market is “not hot,” agent John Boggs tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).  Boggs is trying to push his client’s ability to play all three outfield spots and a bat that delivered a .284 average in 2014, hoping that teams won’t shy away because Ichiro is entering his age-41 season.
  • It would be surprising if the Rockies pulled off a blockbuster deal involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes.  “If I was a betting man, I sure wouldn’t put down money on a trade,” a Major League executive tells Saunders.  The likeliest scenario is that neither player is traded (if at all) until they’ve proven they’re healthy.

West Notes: Kemp, Cabrera, Kendrick, Upton

With the Winter Meetings beginning in San Diego, this could be the week the Dodgers finally deal from their glut of outfielders, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers would prefer to hang onto Matt Kemp, according to Shaikin, but Major League players are not being offered for either Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford.

Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports the Mariners were close to a deal for Kemp with Seattle paying roughly half of the $107 million remaining on his salary over the next five years, but things fell apart when the Dodgers insisted on the inclusion of either Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. In a second article, Dutton lists the Padres and the Orioles as the Mariners’ primary competition for Kemp, with Shaikin adding the Giants are a possibility, if they fail to sign Chase Headley. With Nelson Cruz now in Seattle, Dutton opines the Mariners’ interest in Kemp will depend on what other offers the Dodgers receive. Those other offers may not be to the Dodgers’ liking, as Shaikin notes the Braves (Justin Upton and Evan Gattis), Red Sox (Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig), and Phillies (Marlon Byrd) also have right-handed power bats available to trade.

Elsewhere in baseball’s West divisions:

  • Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says the constant rumors that come with running a major market team are “comical,” but he doesn’t necessarily mind it, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “Misinformation can be a powerful tool,” Friedman said.
  • The Mariners are reluctant to part with their young pitching to acquire an outfield bat, according to Dutton. “That’s a little bit of a dangerous road,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “You look at our pitching staff, and when you analyze it, a couple of those young starters didn’t pitch a lot of innings last year.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the Mariners are very serious about their pursuit of Melky Cabrera. Last week, it was reported the M’s are believed to be willing to offer something similar to the four-year, $57MM deal that they used to sign Cruz.
  • In a separate tweet, Rosenthal posits the Angels are reluctant to trade second baseman Howie Kendrick because of offensive concerns including uncertainity about Josh Hamilton, an unsettled DH situation, and no clear backup catcher.
  • Sources tell ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) the Giants and Reds are great fits for Justin Upton, but neither match up well with the Braves and may need to involve a third team to swing a deal.
  • Olney also tweets the Astros continue to pursue closer David Robertson and his most lucrative offer might come from Houston.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post there has been interest in catcher Wilin Rosario, but Colorado “could very easily go into the season with Wilin.

AL East Notes: Craig, Miller, Grilli, Jays

The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link).  Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base.  The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man.  Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
  • The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.  Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
  • The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson?  Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
  • In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014.  Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
  • Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada.  Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
  • Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”